NNDA director: Nevada needs skilled construction workers
With less than a quarter of the skilled construction workers it requires, building costs across Nevada are soaring, according to business leaders who spoke in Minden on Wednesday.
A national survey said the state has 21,000 skilled construction laborers now but will need 92,000 workers by 2020, according to Nevada Builders Alliance CEO Aaron West.
“Because of demand, we’re seeing rapid inflation on everything, whether it’s single family or apartments,” said West. “I feel like we’re in critical times.”
West said the narrative that says all high school students should be destined for college needs to change along with assumptions about construction work.
“I hear over and over it’s seasonal work, I don’t want to be at the end of a shovel all my life,” he said at the Northern Nevada Development Authority’s breakfast at the Carson Valley Inn.
The alliance recently surveyed its 750 members and found 100 percent were hiring year round and 80 percent needed help finding employees.
But finding skilled workers is just part of the equation, educators said.
Douglas High School is asking businesses to provide internships and apprenticeships for its career program students, according to Career and Technical Education Program Coordinator Jim Meyers.
Douglas students take two assessments, one for workplace readiness skills, which measures soft skills like work ethic, and an end of program assessment, which evaluates specific job skills. Both provide nationally recognized certification.
“That tells employers that this kid really knows his stuff and can do things right with a minimal amount of training,” said Meyers.
Career and Technical Programs Director Georgia White at Western Nevada College said the industry also needs to look beyond graduating students.
“We need to encourage those in the 25-35-year-old category who are thinking about changing their careers to consider construction,” she said.
To that end, the college has an accelerated nine-week construction gateway program that certifies workers.
“If you come to campus and speak to these classrooms you’ll get to know these students and can present your business and create excitement,” said White. “Then you’ll get first dibs on these students.”
JOIN Inc., the federally funded occupational training organization, is looking for the same kind of foot in the door for the individuals it trains and is offering an incentive.
“JOIN will subsidize wages up to 100 percent for 12 weeks,” said Denise Castle, executive director.
And once those workers are hired, it’s imperative businesses help them progress in their careers, said Bill Miles, president and CEO, Miles Construction.
“I’m a big believer in trying to promote from within your organization,” said Miles. “If someone has a basic work ethic and wants to learn it’s important for us to encourage those people.”
Authority Executive Director Rob Hooper said he recently attended a meeting with Steve Neighbors, trustee of the Hop & Mae Adams Foundation, which is building the mixed-use project on Carson City’s Curry Street.
“What did Mr. Neighbors say about 308 Curry Street?,” Hooper asked. “He said, ‘We’re running months behind schedule because we can’t get skilled workers.’”